At Soaring Eagle Nature School, parents receive a Story Of The Day email to learn about what the kids got up to in the program. Here’s a Story Of The Day from January 2018, featuring the Weekly Forest Program for kids aged 7-12.
Hello Soaring Eagle Families!
We had a great day in the forest, full of adventures and even some snow!!
We started our morning with a great round of Foxtails. This game has been in our repertoire for years and many of the kids have played Foxtails several times, and yet, we love it every time. This time around was particularly special though. Everyone played with 100% effort, honour, and respect. Despite giving it our all, nobody took it too far. We all towed the line of being fully immersed while maintaining an awareness of other people’s bodies and being honourable opponents! It was awesome. Thanks for a great game everyone!
After the game, Stephanie told us an old story from Ireland, the land of her great-grandfather. In this story, we hear the adventures of Fiachra and the Island of the Lonesome Seals. Fiachra can hear the voices of the wee folk and he learns of the mysterious disappearance of the inhabitants of the island. It’s up to Fiachra to set things right and to restore the harmony between the people, the seals, and the wee folk.
After the story, we set off with our small groups for the day’s activities.
We wandered down the trail, enjoying each other’s company and checking out some of the wonders of the forest. We came across some coral mushrooms, that get their name from how similar they look to coral. We learned that coral mushrooms can be used to dye clothing, so we set a goal for ourselves – we will try and gather coral mushrooms on another day to use for dying some cloth. We then discovered some Witches Butter and joked that witches like to put it on their toast… Of course, their toast is actually Turkey Tail mushrooms. After a long wander, we stopped for lunch.
With our bellies full, we set off to find a portal. We decided that we wanted to travel to mythological land, where we would all find a dragon. We found a portal and journeyed through. The land was beautiful and full of mysteries. We realized that if we were going to encounter dragons, we would have to summon them. So, we built a map on the forest floor and made sure that we included all the significant landmarks that surrounded us. With our map made, we each found a spot, our own special spot, to summon our dragon. We sat for 10 mins in silence, calling our dragons from our heart. When the 10 mins were up, we gave our best dragon call, and they all appeared.
Stephanie’s dragon hid a treasure for us somewhere in the forest, so we used the map that we had made to locate the specific area of the treasure. We found the treasure and then decide that we wanted to hide it. We all took turns hiding the treasure, and then using the map to identify where in the forest the treasure was hidden. It was great fun.
We eventually said goodbye to our spot and wandered back down the trail. Luckily, our dragons came with us. 🙂
Tom’s group started our day with a challenge. While the group raced to find plants that Tom didn’t know, Tom tried his best to see what plant life he could find that would be a mystery to the boys in the group. Funny enough a couple of the plants were mysteries to all of us and we made plans get out our field guides to do some sleuthing later in the day.
Arriving at a familiar spot we noticed that a few of us were feeling the cold and decided to break into a game of warrior stalk to warm ourselves up. The young scouts showed their skill this day and prevailed despite Tom’s best efforts.
After a lunch break we explored the nearby area, looking for other interesting plants. We realised that some plants we are confident identifying in the spring and summer, become more difficult to identify in the winter without their foliage. We found an interesting plant and after a few clues we figured out it was a Red Elderberry, we’re used to the distinctive berries and the shape and smell of the leaves, but few of us had taken notice of the distinctive bark.
With the sleet starting to come down we got active to stay warm by playing a game of wolf and deer. We started with a lone wolf stalking the deer who were sometimes hiding and sometimes running away. Today we added a new twist, Tom would show a sample of from a nearby tree, maybe a few needles, a cone or bark and any of the deer would go to whichever tree they thought it was. Any of the deer at the correct tree were in a safe zone, but the wolf could pick off any of the deer who had incorrectly identified the safe zone tree.
We heard the other groups nearby and walked back to our meeting point with hopes the sleet would turn into a proper snowfall.
Peter’s group started by talking about Jon Young, who founded the Eight Shields teaching model we use, and famously caught a snapping turtle in the story we tell at the start of the year. Peter shared ideas from a talk by Jon about the nature of connection – to each other, or to the natural world. Jon made the case that at its core it is the same feeling we feel when petting a dog we love: warm, cozy and easy. We decided to see what happened if we approached the day as though every plant, animal and fungus of the forest was a cute little dog we wanted to know.
We started with Sword Ferns! The classic, we all know them. After a few minutes of connection, we pulled out Pojar and MacKinnon, the classic plant field guide of the Pacific Northwest. We checked the drawings, physical description and ecology to make sure our assumption was right.
Next, we moved on to a harder friend. We started with a few minutes of puppy-dog friendship forming, before moving into botany-geeking. Broadly triangular, light green and beat-up by the season, we could tell from the pictures it was either a Bracken Fern or a Spiny Wood Fern. A deeper examination lead us to understand that the tight leaflets near the base matched better with Spiny Wood, and digging into the details we saw that the scales at the stalk base and the lack of a thick, vertical stalk made it certainly a Spiny Wood. Sweet! One more forest friend. Walking through the forest with our new eyes we saw them everywhere.
We spent a little time trading, then had a relaxed lunch. We hung out after lunch a did a little carving, before wrapping the bases of our carved tools with raffia handles.
As we wandered amazed by the softly falling snow, we played a few games of camouflage, before having a super beautiful Sit Spot – connecting further with the plants around us, and each building a story about our experience and for once not sharing it – keeping it completely for ourselves.
Thank you all for a great day in the woods! We look forward to seeing you very soon!
Stephanie, Peter, and Tom
At Soaring Eagle Nature School, parents receive a Story Of The Day email to learn about what the kids got up to in the program. Here’s a Story Of The Day from a Young Sprouts program instructed by Jenna and Cara this month:
Hello SENS Families!
Yesterday we were met with grey clouds and pending rain, and into the forest we went!
We started out playing Wolves and Ravens. The Ravens tried to steal food from the Wolves, who had just gotten a fresh kill. When the Ravens were caught by the Wolves, the Animal Rescuers came and saved them. We learned that the Ravens have to be persistent and try and grab food from the Wolves as often as they can.
We shared our gratitudes for the day and then during snack, Cara told a wonderful story about a Weaver bird named Baya. They are the only bird that know how to tie a half hitch! Its the first knot they do to start the building of their nest. The story was about Baya, who grew up in a community of weaver birds, and rather than go to the daily lessons on knot tying and nest building, he napped, or explored instead. When it was time for him to start building his nest and think about a mate, he slacked off and didn’t worry. He told everyone he could build his nest in an hour! When he finally decided to try, he couldn’t pick the right kind of grass. Then he got his wing tied up in his knot, and then his foot! Finally, he realized he would need help, and that he should have listened to his elders. He was lucky, and was visited by an elder bird, who helped him learn how to tie the half hitch, and start his nest.
After, it was time for some Ninja training. We warmed our bodies and practiced our stealth by following each other as a group, over the hill and back down, and then back over and around.
Once we were warm, we started making some beads out of dead Red Elderberry that we had harvested along the trail. First, you push the inner pith out from the centre, and then use a rock to scrape off the bark. Then, using sandpaper you clean the outside and smooth it out and also the inside. we all made several beads and then got some string to use for making a necklace or bracelet. Cara showed us all how to tie a half hitch, just like the Weaver Bird. We all made them for gifts for people we love.
We ate out lunch to warm up our bodies and then headed off. At another spot, we played Warrior Stalk, where we had only a few seconds to run towards Cara before we hide to hide again. Getting closer and closer, we could eventually tag her and then make it back to our starting spot, with only 7-10 second intervals. It was hard, but we are all getting better and better at hiding and sneaking!
Then it was time to head back, so we re-traced our footsteps, with our beads in our pockets and found all of you.
Thanks for a wonderful day!
Jenna and Cara
Roundhouse Radio hosts Jenna and Stephanie from Soaring Eagle Nature School. Learn about the beginnings of the school, philosophy of mentorship, glow-in-the-dark mushrooms and more!
Bird language is the ability to read into the communication network of wild animals.
Whenever an animal moves out in nature, the birds are watching and they will give off calls that let other animals know what is happening.
Its a lot like those motion detectors people put outside their homes for security.
The motion detector has sensitive equipment that detects the movement of people moving in close to your house.
When the sensor catches movement it switches on a light which lets everyone who is paying attention know that something is moving in that spot.
When you practice the language of the birds, you’ll learn to detect the signs that animals are moving in forest around you.
When you stretch your awareness with bird language, you’ll start to notice patterns in bird behavior that let you know when certain events are happening in the landscape.
If an animal is moving in the forest, It’s like dropping a stone into a still pond. Rings of water emanate in waves from the center of the disturbance.
By observing closely for how the waves of activity are expressed by different birds. you can track how these concentric rings move through the landscape via bird vocalizations.
All you have to do is find the center from which the activity emanates in order to find the animal that is causing the alarm.
With enough listening and observation, you can learn to read the concentric rings that tell you exactly where an animal is and what kind of animal it is.
Bird Language with Tully
After I had been studying the language of the birds for a while and I had started to pick up on certain vocalizations that the birds make when there are animals nearby. I wanted to test my skills as a hunter.
I was living at a house in the country and one of my housemates had a cat named Tully.
I noticed that when Tully was outside the birds acted differently than when he was inside. Their behavior changed incrementally depending on how close by he was.
I would practice using bird language as the traditional hunters would have by trying to sneak up on Tully without him noticing.
Sometimes I was successful and got quite close before I heard his characteristic “meow!” that would let me know I had been caught.
An Ancient Skill
The language of the birds is very subtle. It’s a kind of awareness that was traditionally quite deeply ingrained in the culture of nature-based people.
People who have a deep awareness of nature and knowledge of place usually didn’t get this ability from consciously trying to learn it. It’s the result of an unconsciously ingrained awareness.
There are ways to cultivate this awareness more intentionally if you don’t have a culture surrounding you that already has this skill.
The most important factor that determines how well you get this skill comes down to the amount of sit spot time you have.
The quality of your awareness in one place that you visit regularly to connect with nature and make observations eventually turns into the ability to perceive the concentric rings on the landscape.
It’s a fascinating process.